Anger

Anger is something I don’t do well. When I get angry, one of two things happens. I get emotional and cry, and no one takes me seriously; or I swallow it, and no one even knows I’m mad, and I wallow in it for days. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately because later this week I will have to see someone who I used to be very angry with, for the first time since they hurt me. I’m very nervous about how I am going to react.

I learned a lot of my non-coping strategies from the culture of the LDS church; as a woman, but especially as a Mormon woman, I’ve been taught my whole life to avoid conflict, to be nice, to deffer to authority especially when I disagree, and to swallow my negative emotions. In writing this post I looked up as many references to anger by general authorities as I could find. Unsurprisingly, they were all either about how we need to choose not to be angry, or warnings about the evils of anger. For example:

“Anger is the mother of a whole brood of evil actions” (Gordon B. Hinckley, 2007)

“If we desire to have a proper spirit with us at all times, we must choose to refrain from becoming angry” (Thomas S. Monson, 2009)

I absolutely agree that anger can be damaging, and in many instances, dangerous. However, I feel that simply telling people that anger is bad and they should try not to feel it is not the answer. Emotions happen. They are a reality. Even when we are at our best, they run away with us. What we should be teaching people is that Anger is part of the human experience, and giving them tools to cope with it when it does inevitably come up.

Besides, anger can be positive when it can be channeled in to productive directions. For example, my neighbor with a special-needs child has been able to turn her anger at a system that disadvantages her child in to advocacy for many families in similar situations. It can be a great source of motivation for change.

What do you do when you get angry? Have you ever turned the experience in to a positive?

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Guest Post: “It Bends”

Guest Post by Quimby. Quimby’s previous posts are here, here and here.

When I was 24, I was called to be Primary President in my small, rural Australian ward.  It was the preamble to four years of torture.

 

Don’t get me wrong – I quite enjoyed the role itself.  Sure, we struggled to find teachers some weeks; bookbut I was always prepared with a spare lesson and a spare Sharing Time.  My mother would send me resources from Deseret Books, so that I had a year’s worth of bulletin boards and Sharing Times all ready to go.  There weren’t many kids; but I liked them.  I wanted them to feel loved; I wanted them to want to be in Primary.

 

My battles were with the leadership.  From the very beginning, the Stake Primary Presidency seemed to want to undermine me. She badgered me with countless small jabs about my age and my acreer career, possibly ecause we did not; have children at the time.  If the Stake had a real cause for concern, I might have cared – If I was teaching incorrect Gospel principles, or abusing the kids, or in some other way failing the children in my charge, I might have cared.  But the sheer pettiness of their complaints, coupled with the relentlessness of them, made me simply disconnect from the Stake leadership.

 

To my knowledge, the biggest complaint against me (or at least the biggest complaint the Bishop passed on to me) was that I let the kids choose their own birthday song.

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Go Aggies!

KERSHISNIK_SHEWILLFIND

This is a story about my son. And my dad. And me. And how sometimes death is not the end of a relationship.

Last year, when my oldest was in 11th grade, I started to have panic attacks about college. I never thought I’d have to deal with this. My husband and I both attended BYU, and while we didn’t love it, it was affordable and academically I’ve always maintained you can get wherever you want from BYU. So I just assumed my kids would do the same. But I hadn’t factored in a kid who a) did not want to attend a Church school; and b) didn’t attend seminary regularly. And let’s be clear; our budget could not stretch to cover all these lovely little liberal arts colleges around here. Plus I did not want him taking on great debt. Which left me thinking Jonah would end up at a UMass. The schools are fine, but are no bargain. I did the math and realized once we covered tuition, he’d need to live at home.  I love Massachusetts but it is cruelly expensive. None of these things are the end of the world and I know worrying about college is a privilege. But I also know these decisions can alter our lives. I felt depressed and desperate and greedy for options.  Lots of praying ensued.

I called my sister Angela to talk about all this stuff and she joked, “Too bad Dad’s not around to write a letter for you.” I’d forgotten about my very thrifty father’s proclivity for writing letters to save money. When Lee, my oldest brother, applied and got into grad school at UCLA, he was denied instate tuition because he’d gone off to BYU and served a mission so they said he had lost his California residency. The difference between in and out of state tuition was huge and my dad was having none of it. So Dad typed up a forceful missive about why his son was still a CA resident and got Lee his cheap tuition. Next up: Danny, kid number 2, applies to med schools all over the US. He gets into several but is not even granted an interview at UCLA. My dad is outraged. Out of state tuition is a killer and who is UCLA to say no to his Danny? So once again, Dad breaks out the Smith Corona and outlines for UCLA their mistake. UCLA begrudgingly granted Danny an interview…and loved him. A week later he was accepted with a scholarship. Next came Angela who got a medium award to BYU. My dad was convinced that if BYU took SAT scores instead of just the ACT, her scholarship would have been more. So he said as much to President Holland in a forceful letter. Elder Holland politely denied his request. But by golly Dad tried! And then there’s me. I was never up for anything that required a letter. My dad was so happy I just got in to BYU that he didn’t even care that we had to pay full price. If anything, it was my fault, and not BYU’s, that nothing was special enough about me to merit a discount.

The last weekend in January 2014 I was at my friend’s house in the Berkshires with a group of really smart, interesting women. During a conversation about college with my new friend Julia, she mentioned something about one of her kids considering Utah State University.  “But out of state tuition is a bummer,” I said. She replied that USU has a special deal where kids of their alumni can get instate tuition. “That’s wonderful,” I said. “I wish it extended to grandkids since my dad was an Aggie.” She told me that come to think of it, due to the lowering of the missionary age, she’d heard that USU might have extended the tuition break to grandkids of graduates to keep their numbers up. As she spoke these words a door opened in my mind. My dad went to USU. Tuition would be affordable. It’s strong in science and engineering, which Jonah wants to study. Logan is a great college town. We have lots of family in Utah to be a safety net.  Jonah could leave home but not take on massive debt. And religiously it’s neutral. If he wanted to attend church, awesome; but nobody would stalk him if he didn’t.

The following Monday I called USU and asked if it was true, that grandkids of graduates could get instate tuition. Yes, the woman said. It’s called the Legacy Scholarship. That night I told Jonah about it all and he also seemed relieved—and excited. He immediately started googling and tells me about “genetically-modified goats that produce milk containing the spider silk proteins that can be used in their research on synthetic material for artificial ligaments.” So nerdy and so cool.

I called Angela that night and told her that dad had come through for me on the college front. She laughed and said, “Hon, you finally got your letter—from the grave.”   I teared up a bit as I thought about that, and how I just assumed that relationships have a hard stop in death. My relationship with my father was always strained. We were incapable of giving the other what the other needed: I yearned for acceptance and engagement; he expected excellence and conformity. Since his passing seven years ago, I have felt his love in ways I never did when he was alive. And since my grandmother passed last summer, I often dream of her and awake feeling like I’ve just spent the afternoon with my best friend. For Christmas I bought myself a copy of Brian Kershisnik’s “She Will Find What is Lost.” When I first saw it, I was speechless. It captures what I know has happened to me. I have been buoyed up by loving people I cannot see. I just never realized my dad was among them. I now accept that those on the other side are indeed present with us, rooting for us, and occasionally, writing letters for us.  We can find what was lost.

Jonah was accepted to USU and starts this fall.

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The Great Divide

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I’m 25. I’m not married. And I’m a Mormon. (Wouldn’t that make a great ad?) There are very few of my LDS friends who are my age and still unmarried. In fact, I did a quick review of my Facebook friends and found that all of my friends from high school are married, and about half have at least one baby.

As a young-but-old-enough-you-should-be-married-by-now lady, I would like to ask my fellow humans who are married to be aware. The following are all things that have been said to me at some point:

“It’s ok, if you don’t marry someone in this life, the Stripling Warriors are going to need ladies!”

(You do remember there are only 2,000 of them, right?)

“You can be my sister-wife.”

(Uh…thanks?)

“So…you do like guys, right?”

(Yes, but why is it a problem if I don’t?)

“It’s because you have too many opinions/are too educated!”

(If that’s true than I’d rather be alone)

“There’s this guy in my ward who you would be great with! Well, I don’t actually know anything about him, but he’s single…you’re single…”

(So we must have a lot in common, clearly.)

“Don’t you want a family?”

(I have a family; I have a mom and brothers and aunts and uncles and cousins and nieces and grandparents…you get the idea.)

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Real Talk

Two Women were chatting in office(1)I confessed to being Mormon at a cocktail party recently. The startled expressions of my coworkers indicated that I had either said too much, or was clearly not in good standing with my religion, or some combination of both. I wondered if I had once again failed at small talk. I valiantly attempt to admire necklaces or recall the weather, but inevitably I end up asking a question or revealing some piece of information that veers the conversation way beyond customary topics and into “Here be Dragons” territory. I had brought up religion. In the Midwest. At a work function. I was courting exile.

An offhand mention of a construction assignment at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints church building had elicited my proclamation. Much to my surprise, after the initial reaction, my two female companions eagerly started discussing their own religious upbringing and current involvement. We chatted about families, attendance, and what had shifted for us over the years. Then one of them looked me in eye and asked what I believed in now.

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Holding on to something–Faith after the Endowment

Leaning Against the Wind by J. Kirk Richards

Leaning Against the Wind by J. Kirk Richards

My youth was spent envisioning the day that I would enter the Temple and understand the mysteries of Godliness. I had always been deeply interested in theology, philosophy and concerned with spirituality and standing with God. I saw the garments my mother, and later my roommates, wore and wanted more than anything to have that constant, visual reminder of my covenants with God. I looked forward to that feeling of absolute closeness and connection to the Divine. I desired to make binding covenants that brought me even closer to my God and my Saviour.

I love to see the temple,
I’ll go inside someday,
To feel the Holy Spirit
To listen and to pray.
For the temple is a house of God,
A place of love and beauty.
I’ll prepare myself while I am young,
This is my sacred duty.

I felt sufficiently prepared. I had studied the scriptures. I had developed a close and personal relationship with God. Because I was a scrupulous person, I always questioned my worthiness but I knew that I lived in accordance to the teachings of the Church and was actively striving to live the commandments and do what the Lord would have me do.

Nervous and excited at what was about to transpire, I found the Initiatory to be beautiful and meaningful. I wept as women placed their hands on my head, pronounced me clean and proclaimed blessings upon me. I was stunned by the peace and beauty I felt.

And then came the Endowment.

All of my experiences in the temple to this point had been liberating and felt to open my communion with God. Through baptisms, I was reminded that I had also been made clean through the waters of my own baptism. Confirmations reminded me that I also had been given the gift of the Holy Spirit to be my constant companion. Through the Initiatory, I was blessed and again pronounced clean. But the Endowment was different. It was not liberating, it was restrictive. It was not peaceful, it was puzzling. It put processes and passwords between me and God. Suddenly, I was terrified that I might accidentally say words and names and betray covenants of non-disclosure. Suddenly, I needed to remember signs and tokens to approach my God. Suddenly, my husband was pronounced as my god. Suddenly, the God of the universe no longer accepted me for my faith and my desire to do good in the world but required exclusive information and hand signs to approach Him.

It took everything in me to keep from running away–running back to the world where God was loving and knowable, kind and understanding, forgiving and approachable. But I stayed, because that is what good Mormon girls do and I wanted to be a good Mormon girl.

I had always been told that the Temple would be the great place of communion and peace but that was not the temple I visited on that June day. This temple brought questions, doubts and concerns. Because I had always been promised this amazing experience of communion and love, but instead was confronted with distance and strangeness, I left the temple concluding that either 1) my faith that felt so strong before was severely lacking or 2) there must be no God. It had never occurred to me that perhaps God was not restricted to Mormon temples or that perhaps this wasn’t the way that I would reach greatest communion with the Divine. It never occurred to me that there was an overwhelming number of people in my faith community who felt the same way but “got used to it.”

And still, I tried. I begged God to be with me, to help me to have faith. For the first year after receiving my Endowment, I attended the temple faithfully. I tried to go at least once a week, concluding that perhaps my uneasiness was due to the fact that the ceremony was unfamiliar and I needed more time to understand it. I could sometimes muster a glimmer of peace but soon after felt anxious and once again, alone in my struggles.

And then, there was light.

I had been assigned in one of my graduate seminars to do a close study of J.S. Bach’s St. John Passion to find how he had used music to capture (Lutheran) Christian theology. The task was daunting and I was ready for boredom and confusion. But from the first musical cry for “Herr! Herr! Unser Herrcher!” (Lord! Lord! Our Ruler!”), I was transfixed.

Swept away in the beauty of cross motives and closed disonances that only resolved at the declaration of atonement, I felt it again for the first time in the year since I entered the temple–that overwhelming feeling of warmth, peace, gratitude, and immense love. As I looked up from the score between my broken German translation and cantata choruses, I saw hummingbirds flitting from bright flower to bright flower. The hot August heat was inviting rather than bothersome. Suddenly, everything in the world was vibrantly alive and yet still. The tears flowed as I thanked the heavens for this moment. I had been searching for God and could not find Him in the places I had always been told I would. Instead, God found me, right where I was, and helped me to find rest. There were no signs or tokens, no clothing or covenants–just indescribable love and peace.

I remain fairly agnostic on temple rites. I don’t pretend to know whether or they’re inspired of God, man or the devil. In fact, there are few things that I claim any form of certainty these days. But I do know that day of peace and I hold on to it as the moment God taught me just to rest — in love, grace, peace — and put aside my need to understand those things that distance me from it. And also, listen to more Bach.

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